Female Pattern Baldness: Causes and Solutions

young woman looking into mirror at her receding hairline

Female pattern baldness is a common problem that affects many women. It can cause a great deal of emotional stress and affect self-esteem. The good news is that there are many treatment options available, including changes to diet and lifestyle, use of medication, and medical procedures like PRP injections. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of female pattern baldness and the different treatment options available.

How Common is Female Pattern Hair Loss?

Did you know that female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is a common problem? In reality, according to the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, 12% of women develop detectable FPHL by the age of 29. That number rises to 40% by the age of 50!

 

The causes of female pattern hair loss are numerous, including genetics, hormones, and age. Whatever the case may be, it can be distressing and mortifying for women who lose their hair. Fortunately, there are therapies available to help restore lost hair. Many women might discover a solution that works for them if they have a little patience and perseverance.

Male Pattern Baldness vs. Female Pattern Baldness

Male pattern baldness is commonly signified by a receding hairline that’s slowly moving backwards, as well as round bald spots on the crown of the head. In contrast, female pattern baldness typically leads to diffuse thinning hair across the entire scalp, rather than in restricted areas. This type of hair loss in women often follows a “Christmas tree pattern” of missing hair stemming from the hair’s part. However, each woman’s experience with female pattern baldness is different and not all women experience diffuse hair loss – some will experience a receding hair line or patchy bald spots.

 

Generally, balding in women is considered less socially acceptable than male balding. If a woman experiences female pattern hair loss, it will likely cause emotional stress due to societal expectations.

Emotional Impact of Female Pattern Baldness

Female Pattern Baldness can have a significant impact on one’s mental and emotional well-being. Many women believe that they are less attractive when their hair begins to fall out. This might cause feelings of self-esteem and even depression. According to one clinical study, the psychological and emotional effects of certain patients dealing with hair loss were comparable to those who were terminally ill or faced life-threatening conditions.

 

Women experiencing hair loss often suffer from worsening emotional and psychological effects. In 2005, a clinical survey of women with female pattern baldness revealed that 40% had reported marital problems due to their hair loss and 63% said they’d experienced career-related difficulties as a result of their hair loss.

 

Women typically have a more difficult time with hair loss than men for various reasons. For example, society is more accepting of baldness in males. And while there are medical treatments that help both genders, the remedies available for hair loss in women are usually not as successful or versatile. This includes the fact that there are less prescription drugs for treating alopecia in women than there are for men.

Female Pattern Baldness and Stress

There are many potential causes of hair loss in women, but one of the most common is stress. When you are stressed, your body goes into survival mode and starts to shut down non-essential functions like hair health. Studies have shown that when people are under stress, their bodies produce agents which inhibit scalp hair growth and damage healthy follicles.

 

Telogen Effluvium is a form of stress-related hair loss that occurs when stressful events or life circumstances induce rapid hair thinning and even patchy baldness. Telogen Effluvium, also known as “TE,” is the most prevalent cause of non-scarring diffuse alopecia. While TE’s patchy hair loss may be only brief, it can have long-lasting consequences. Even minor shedding can generate significant amounts of emotional and psychological strain for many women.

 

It’s easy to see how female pattern baldness can create a feedback loop of more stress and more thinning hair. Unfortunately, the stress related to female pattern baldness in women can often become a viscous cycle. Since it has been shown that stress can lead to thinning hair and also that hair loss can lead to emotional stress, For this reason it may be important to take a holistic approach when managing female pattern baldness by identifying ways to deal with the root cause of the issue while simultaneously managing the stress associated with thinning hair.

Diet and Female Pattern Baldness

woman with curly hair eating a salad and smiling

A diet that lacks essential nutrients can lead to female hair loss. To promote healthy growing hair, make sure you are getting enough protein and other vital nutrients. In addition, ensure you are consuming adequate levels of vitamin C, iron, and omega-three fatty acids.

 

If you believe your diet is causing your female pattern baldness, contact a doctor or a registered dietitian. They can assist you in developing a nutrition strategy that meets your nutritional requirements while also ensuring that your body receives all of the nutrients it requires to promote healthy hair development naturally.

Iron Deficiency and Thinning Hair

One of the most common nutrient deficiencies that can lead to female pattern hair loss is iron deficiency. Iron is essential for carrying oxygen to the cells, and without it, hair follicles can become starved for oxygen which leads to hair shedding.

 

If you think you might be iron deficient, speak with your doctor about getting a blood test. If blood tests show that you are iron deficient, your doctor will likely recommend you take an iron supplement. They may also suggest changes to your diet to help increase your intake of iron-rich foods. Something as simple as increasing your dietary iron intake could be enough to stimulate hair growth and reduce further hair thinning.

Hormones Affect on Female Pattern Hair Loss

Hormonal abnormalities can also cause female hair loss. When your hormones are out of balance, it may disrupt the growth cycle of your whole body, including your hair. If you think hormones are the reason you are losing hair, talk to your doctor about getting a hormone test. There are methods to restore hormone equilibrium and stop hair loss available if required.

Do Birth Control Pills Cause Hair Loss?

It’s no secret that birth control pills have a slew of adverse side effects. However, many women are unaware that one of the lesser-known side effects is hair loss. Modulating a woman’s hormones to prevent pregnancy is the most common way contraceptive pills work. Unfortunately, altering hormone levels can disrupt the hair development cycle as well.

 

There are numerous stories of women who start losing their hair after beginning oral contraceptives for birth control. Many women with previously healthy hair appear to lose their hair when they stop utilizing birth-control pills. In both situations, it appears that the hormonal changes caused by oral contraceptive use can cause an increase in hair falls and hair follicle miniaturization.

Endocrine Conditions and Hair Loss

Certain endocrine conditions can also lead to hair loss in women. Hair shedding may accompany several endocrine disorders, including hypopituitarism, hypoparathyroidism, diabetes mellitus, hypothyreosis, hyperthyreosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, growth hormone deficiency, hyperprolactinaemia, Cushing syndrome, SAHA syndrome, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or virilising tumours.

 

In order to effectively treat female pattern baldness it’s important to first look for any underlying endocrine condition. By understanding how these conditions can contribute to androgenic alopecia, women can make better choices about the strategies they employ to stimulate hair regrowth.

PCOS and Female Pattern Hair Loss

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (Sometimes called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or more commonly PCOS) is a condition that primarily affects women and is frequently linked with hair loss. Women with PCOS have an endocrine imbalance, which can cause their bodies to produce too much testosterone. Female pattern hair loss, acne, and irregular periods can all be symptoms of PCOS. There is no cure for PCES, but there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms. If you suspect you might have Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, talk to your doctor about getting tested.

Hair Loss Medications for Women

The FDA has approved several medications to treat hair loss in males and females. The four most frequent are minoxidil, finasteride, dutasteride, and ketoconazole. Here’s an overview of these medications as they relate to male or female pattern hair loss:

Minoxidil

Minoxidil is a nonprescription drug that may be used by both men and women. Topical Minoxidil solutions have been shown to promote new hair growth and reduce further hair thinning.

Finasteride

Finasteride is a prescription drug that is only available to men to treat male pattern hair loss. It works to inhibit the formation of DHT, a hormone that causes hair loss. By inhibiting DHT formation, Finasteride works to restore hair growth and reduce further hair loss.

Dutasteride

Dutasteride is a prescription medication that is also only available for male pattern hair loss patients. It helps to block the production of DHT and also helps to shrink enlarged prostate glands. Like Finasteride, Dutasteride can help thicken hair and reduce future hair loss.

Ketoconazole

Ketoconazole is an oral medication that is available by prescription only. Because of this drug’s potentially serious side effects, it will only be prescribed by a clinician after a thorough review of your medical history and known medical conditions. When used effectively, Ketoconazole has been shown to slow down the rate of hair loss, treat seborrheic dermatitis, and kill fungus on the scalp. Ketoconazole is not gender specific, so it can be prescribed to treat male pattern hair loss or female pattern hair loss.

Hair Laser for Women

There are a slew of medical technologies and at-home treatments that claim to utilize LED or laser light to aid hair regrowth. Remarkably, clinical evidence suggests that therapeutic light can stimulate hair growth, making it an effective hair loss treatment for women and men who are experiencing hair thinning.

 

Light therapy devices, such as a low level laser device, work to improve cellular metabolism through a process called photobiomodulation. When properly applied, it has been shown that these light therapy devices can stimulate hair growth – offering positive benefits to patients with female pattern baldness. Some clinical studies have demonstrated that a significant amount of androgenetic alopecia patients treated with low level laser therapy saw a reduction in hair loss and even an increase in hair growth!

 

This 2019 review study published in the journal of Lasers in Medical Science found that therapeutic laser treatment of patients with androgenetic alopecia helped regrow hair in a significant amount of patients. Overall, patients who received laser treatment had thicker hair and less hair loss than patients who did not receive treatment.

PRP Injections for Female Hair Loss

close up image of woman receiving a PRP injection into the part of her hair

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) injections have become a very popular treatment option for women with female pattern baldness. There are many of peer-reviewed, published studies showing that PRP can be an effective treatment for female pattern hair loss. These studies repeatedly show that women treated with high concentration PRP usually see a significant increase in hair density and count.

 

PRP injections are not only painless but also practically free of serious adverse effects. Because PRP is made from the patient’s own blood, allergic reactions are extremely uncommon. In contrast, topical medications like Minoxidil can cause irritation and allergic responses. Minoxidil has several unpleasant side effects, including hair loss! Furthermore, although Minoxidil provides long-lasting results in a large number of patients, new growth often fades after therapy discontinuation.

Female Hair Transplant Surgery

The two most common types of hair transplant surgery are follicular unit extraction (FUE) and follicular unit transplant (FUT). FUE involves extracting individual hairs from the donor area and transplanting them to the recipient area. To do FUT, a strip of hair is extracted from the donor area and divided into individual follicular units before being transplanted to the balding or thinning areas.

 

There are also alternative hair transplantation surgery techniques, including the scalp reduction approach and tissue expansion. The surgeon takes a section of bald scalp away and replaces it with hair-bearing skin from a donor region in the scalp reduction procedure. In the tissue expansion procedure, a balloon is inserted beneath the bald area’s skin. The balloon is inflated, causing the surrounding skin to expand and provide additional space for neighboring hair. It’s worth noting that these alternative surgical techniques are less common than standard hair transplants.  To learn more, check out our Guide on Hair Transplant Surgery

Types of Female Pattern Baldness

Female pattern baldness can take many forms and have many different, or multiple, root causes. Here is a brief outline of the common types of alopecia that lead to hair loss in women:

Androgenetic Alopecia

Androgenetic Alopecia (sometimes called Androgenic Alopecia or AGA) is the most common form of female pattern hair loss. In fact, it is responsible for approximately 95% of all female pattern hair loss. AGA is a progressive condition that can lead to complete baldness if left untreated.

 

AGA is caused by an interaction between hormones and genetic factors. Androgens are hormones that play a role in both male and female pattern baldness. One of the main culprits behind AGA is DHT, or dihydrotestosterone. DHT is a by-product of testosterone that result in thinner, weaker hairs.

 

AGA typically begins with a receding hairline or thinning hair on the top of the scalp. For most women with AGA, the hair loss gradually spreads outwards, eventually leading to thinning or a bald patch on the crown. In severe cases, the hair loss can progress to complete baldness of the entire scalp.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition that can cause patchy hair loss on the scalp, as well as complete baldness. In Alopecia Areata, the immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing them to shrink and eventually stop producing hairs.

 

Alopecia Areata typically begins with one or more small, round patches of hair loss. The hair loss can then spread to cover the entire scalp, or it may progress to complete baldness. Alopecia Areata can affect men, women, and children of all ages.

Alopecia Universalis

Alopecia Universalis (AU) is a rare form of Alopecia Areata that causes complete baldness of the scalp, as well as the loss of all body hair. In AU, the immune system attacks not only the hairs on the scalp, but also the hairs all over the body.

 

This type of alopecia typically begins with patchy hair loss on the scalp. The hair loss then spreads to cover the entire scalp and progresses to complete baldness. In some cases, the hair loss may also spread to other areas of the body, causing the loss of all body hair.

Traction Alopecia

Traction Alopecia is a form of hair loss that is caused by damage to the hairs. The damage is typically caused by tight hairstyles that pull on the hair, such as ponytails, braids, hair extensions, and cornrows. Over time, the constant pulling can damage the hair follicles and cause them to stop producing hairs.

 

This type of alopecia typically begins with patchy hair loss on the scalp. The hair loss then spreads to cover the entire scalp, or it may progress to complete baldness. In some cases, the hair loss may also spread to other areas of the body that are subject to constant pulling or traction, such as the eyebrows or eyelashes.

Learn More About Treating Hair Loss

photo of table with pumpkin seeds in a bowl, a slice of pumpkin, and a jar of pumpkin seed oil

Pumpkin Seed Oil for Hair Growth

Pumpkin Seed Oil for Hair Growth There’s a lot of buzz recently about using pumpkin seed oil to promote hair growth. As with any new health trend, it’s important to understand the facts before you jump on board and start

Read More »
young man looking into mirror examining his hairline for hair loss

Side Effects of Finasteride for Hair Loss

Side Effects of Finasteride for Hair Loss Finasteride is an FDA-approved medication that was originally created to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia. Today, Finasteride is primarily used to treat male pattern hair loss. Finasteride is most commonly prescribed as an oral

Read More »

PRF for Hair Loss

PRF for Hair Loss Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) treatment has gained popularity in recent years as a non-surgical option for hair loss, but have you heard of platelet-rich fibrin (PRF)? While both PRP and PRF are derived from a patient’s own

Read More »